Excerpts from  Army of the Potomac, advancing army,
Alloy of a dozen disparate, alien states,
City-boy, farm-hand, bounty-man, first volunteer,
Old regular, drafted recruit, paid substitute,
Men who fought through the war from First Bull Run,
And other men, nowise different in look or purpose
Whom the first men greated at first with a ribald cry
"Here they come! Two hundred dollars and a ka-ow!"
Rocks from New England and hickory-chunks from the West,
Bowery boy and clogging Irish adventurer,
Germans who learnt their English under the shells
Or didn't have time to learn it before they died.
Confused, huge weapon, forged from such different metals,
Misused by unlucky swordsmen till you were blunt
And then reforged with anguish and bloody sweat
To be blunted again by one more unlucky captain
Against the millstone of Lee.
                                         Good Stallion,
Ridden and ridden against a hurdle of thorns
By uncertain rider after uncertain rider.
The rider fails and you shiver and catch your breath,
They plaster your wounds and patch up your broken knees,
And then, just as you know the grip of your rider's hands
And begin to feel at home with his horseman's tricks,
Another rider comes with a different seat,
And lunges you at the bitter hurdle again,
And it beats you again - and it all begins from the first,
The patching of wounds, the freezing in winter camps,
The vain mud-marches, the diarrhea, the wastage,
The grand reviews, the talk in the newspapers,
The sour knowledge that you were wasted again,
Not as Napoleons waste for a victory
But blindly, unluckily -
                                 until at last
After long years, at fish-hook Gettysburg,
The blade and the millstone meet and the blade holds fast.  They came to the fish-hook Gettysburg in this way, after this fashion.
 Over hot pikes, heavy with pollen, past fields where the wheat was high.
 Peaches grew in the orchards; it was fertile country,
 Full of red barns and fresh springs, and dun, deep uddered kine.

 A farmer lived with a clear stream that ran through his very house-room.
 They cooled the butter in it and the milk, in their wide stone jars;
 A dusty Georgian came there,  to eat and to go on to battle;
 They dipped the milk from the jars, it was cold and sweet in his mouth.

 He heard the clear stream's music as the German housewife served him,
 Remembering the Shenandoah and a stream poured from a rock;
 He ate and drank and went on to the gunwheels crushing the harvest.
 It was a thing he remembered as long as the guns.

Country of broad-backed horses, stone houses and long, green
Where Getty came with his ox-team to found a steady town
And the little trains of my boyhood puffed solemnly up the
Past the market-squares and the lindens and the Quaker meeting-house

Penn stood under his oak with a painted sachem beside him,
The market-women sold scrapple when the first red maples
When the buckeyes slipped from their sheaths, you could gather
 a pile of buckeyes,
Red-brown as old polished boots, good to touch and hold in the

The ice-cream parlor was papered with scenes from Paul and
The pigs were fat all year, you could stand a spoon in the cream,
-Penn stood under his oak with a feathered pipe in his fingers,
His eyes were quiet with God, but his wits and his bargain sharp.

So I remember it all, and the light sound of buckeyes falling
On the worn rose-bricks of the pavement, herring-boned, trodden
 for years;
The great yellow shocks of wheat and the dust white road
 through summer,
And in the fall, the green walnut shells, and the stain they left for a

So I remember you, ripe country of broad backed horses,
Valley of cold, sweet springs and dairies with limestone floors;
And so they found you that year, when they scared your cows
 with their cannon,
And the strange South moved against you, lean marchers lost
 in the corn.

 Two months have passed since Jackson died in the woods
 And they bought his body back to the Richmond State House
 To lie there, heaped with flowers, while the bells tolled
 Two months of feints and waiting.
     A two edged chance
 And yet a chance that may burnish a fallen star;
 For now, on the wide expanse of the Western board,
 Strong pieces that fought for the South have been swept away
 Or penned up in hollow in Vicksburg
     One cool spring night
 Porter's ironclads run the shore batteries
 Through a velvet  stabbed with hot flashes.
     Grant lands his men
 Drives the relieving forces of Johnson away
 And sits at last in front of the hollow town
 Like a Huge brown bear on its haunches, terribly waiting
 His guns begin to peck at the pillared porches,
 The sleepy, sun spattered streets.  His siege has begun
 Forty-eight days that siege and those guns go on
 Like a slow hand closing around a hungry throat,
 Ever more hungry

The news creeps back to the watchers oversea.
They ponder on it aloof and irresolute.
The balance they watch is dipping against the South.
It will take great strokes to redress that balance again.
There will be one more moment of shaken scales
When the Laird rams almost alter the scheme of things,
But it is distant.
                  The watchers stare at the board
Waiting a surer omen than Chancellorsville
Or any battle won on Southern ground.

Lee sees that dip of the ballance and so prepares
His cast for the surer omen and his last stroke
At the steel-bossed Northern sheild. Once before he tried
That spear-rush North and was halted. It was a chance.
This is a chance. He weighs the chance in his hand
Like a stone, reflecting.
                        Four years from Harper's Ferry-
Two years since the First Manassas-and this last year
Stroke after stroke successful-but still no end.

He is a man with a knotty club in his hand
Beating off bulls from the breaks in a pasture fence
And he has beaten them back at each fresh assault,
McClellan-Burnside-Hooker at Chancellorsville-
Pope at the Second Manassas-Banks in the Valley-
But the pasture is trampled; his army needs new pasture.
An army moves like a locust, eating the grain,
And this grain is well-nigh eaten. He cannot mend
The breaks in his fence with famine or starving hands,
And if he waits the wheel of another year
The bulls will come back full-fed shaking sharper horns
While he faces them empty, armed with a hunger-cracked
Unmagic stick.......

Lincoln hears the rumor in Washington.
They are moving North.
                     The Pennsylvania cities
Hear it and shake, they are loose, they are moving north.
Call up your shotgun-militia, bury your silver,
Shoulder a gun or run away from the state,
They are loose, they are moving.
                               Fighting Joe Hooker has heard it.
He swings his army back across the Potomac,
Rapidly planning, while Lee still visions him South.
Stuart's horse should have brought news of that move
But Stuart is off on a last and luckless raid
Far to the East, and the grey host moves without eyes
Through crucial days.
                    They are in the Cumberland now,
Taking minor towns, feeding fat for a little while,
Pressing horses and shoes, paying out Confederate bills
To slow Dutch storekeepers who groan at the money.
They are loose, they are in the North, they are here and there.
Halleck rubs his elbows and wonders where,
Lincoln is sleepless, the telegraph-sounders click
In the War Office day and night
                               There are lies and rumors'
They are only a mile from Philadelphia now,
They are burning York-they are marching on Baltimore-

Meanwhile Lee rides through the heart of the Cumberland.
A great hot sunset colors the marching men,
Colors the horse and the sword and the bearded face
But cannot change that face from its strong repose.
And-miles away- Joe Hooker, by telegraph
Cals for the garrison left at Harper's Ferry
To join him. Elbow-rubbing Haleck refuses.
Hooker resigns command-and fades from the East
To travel West, fight keenly at Lookout Mountain,
Follow Sherman's march as far as Atlanta,
Be ranked by Howard, and tartly resign once more
Before the end and the fame and the Grand Review,
To die a slow death, in bed with his fire gone out,
A campfire quenched and forgotten.

Meanwhile, Lee rides through the heart of the Cumberland.
A great hot sunset colors the marching men,
Colors the horse and the sword and the bearded face
But cannot change that face from its strong repose.
And - miles away - Joe Hooker, by telegraph
Calls for the garrison left at Harper's Ferry
To join him.  Elbow-rubbing Halleck refuses.
Hooker resigns command - and fades from the East
To travel West, fight keenly at Lookout Mountain,
Follow Sherman's march as far as Atlanta,
Be ranked by Howard, and tartly resign once more
Before the end and the fame and the Grand Review,
To die a slow death, in bed, with his fire gone out,
A campfire quenched and forgotten.
                                                 He deserved
A better and brusquer end that marched with his nickname,
This disappointed, hot-tempered, most human man
Who had such faith in himself except for once,
And the once, being Chancellorsville, wiped out the rest....


So Hooker goes from our picture - and a spent aide
Reaches Meade's hut at three o'clock in the morning
To wake him with unexpected news of command.
The thin Pennsylvanian puts on his spectacles
To read the order.  Tall, sad-faced and austere,
He has the sharp, long nose of a fighting-bird,
A prudent mouth and a cool, considering mind.
An iron-grey man with none of Hooker's panache,
But resolute and able, well skilled in war;
They call hin "the dammed old goggle-eyed snapping-turtle"
At times, and he does not call out the idol-shout
When he rides his lines, but his prudence is a hard prudence,
And can last out storms that break the men with panache,
Though it summons no counter-storm when the storm is done.

His sombre schoolmaster-eyes read the order well.
It is three days before the battle.
                                            He thinks at first
Of a grand review, gives it up, and begins to act.

That morning a spy brings news to Lee in his tent
That the Union army has moved and is on the march.
Lee cals back Ewell and Early from their forays
And summons his host together by the cross-roads
Where Getty came with his ox-cart.
                                 So now we see
These two crab-armies fumbling for each other,
As if through a fog of rumor and false report,
These last two days of sleepy, hay-harvest June.
Hot June lying asleep on a shock of wheat
Where the pollen-wind blows over the burnt-gold stubble
And the thirsty men march past, stirring thick grey dust
>From the trodden pikes-till at last, the crab-claws touch
At Getty's town, and clutch, and the peaches fall
Cut by the bullets, splashing under the trees.

That meeting was not willed by a human mind,
When we come to sift it.
                        You say fate rode a horse
Ahead of those lumbering hosts, and in either hand
He carried a skein of omen. And when at last,
He came to a certain umbrella-copse of trees
That had never heard a cannon or seen dead men,
He knotted the skeins together and flung them down
With a sound like metal.

                         Perhaps. It may have been so.
All that we know is-Meade intended to fight
Some fifteen miles away on the Pipe Creek Line
And where Lee meant to fight him, if forced to fight,
We do not know, but it was not where they fought.
Yet the riding fate,
Blind and deaf and a doom on a lunging horse,
Threw down his skeins and gathered the battle there.

The buttercup meadows
are very yellow
A child comes there
To fill her hands
The gold she gathers
Is soft and precious
As sweet as new butter
Fresh from the churn

She fills her frock
With the yellow flowers,
The butter she gathers
Is smooth as gold,
Little bright cups
Of new-churned sunshine
For a well behaved
Hoop skirted doll

Her frock's full
And her hands are mothy
With yellow pollen
But she keeps on.
Down by the fence
They are even thicker.
She runs, bowed down
with butter-cup gold.

She sees a rider.
His face is grey
With a different dust
He talks loud.
He rattles like tinware
He has a long sword
To kill little girls.

He shouts at her now,
But she doesn't answer.
"Where is the town?"
But she will not hear.
There are other riders
Jangling behind him.
"We won't hurt you youngster!"
But they have swords.

The buttercup fall
Like Spilt butter
She runs away.
She runs to her house.
She hides her face
In her mother's apron
And tried to tell her
How dreadful it was.


Buford came to Gettysburg late that night

 - Fabulous shoes of Gettysburg, dead man's shoes,
Did anyone ever wear you, when it was done,
When the men were gone, when the farms were spoiled with the
What became of your nails and leather?  The swords went home,
The swords went into museums and neat glass cases,
The swords look well there.  They are clean from the war.
You wouldn't put old shoes in a neat glass case,
Still stuck with the mud of marching.
                                                    And yet, a man
With a taste for such straws and fables, blown by the wind,
Might hide a pair in a labelled case sometime
Just to see how the leather looked, set down by the swords....

Look at that column well, as it passes by,
Remembering Bull Run and the cocksfeather hats,
The congressmen, the raw militia brigades
Who went to war with a flag and a haircloth trunk
In bright red pants and ideals and ignorance,
Ready to fight like picture-postcard boys
While fighting still had banners and a sword
And just as ready to run in blind mob-panic....
These men were once those men.  These men are the soldiers,
Good theives, good fighters, excellent foragers,
The grumbling men who dislike to be killed in war
And yet will hold when the raw militia break
And live where the raw militia needlessly die,
Having been schooled to that end.
                                                 The school is not
A pretty school.  They wear no cocksfeather hats.
Some men march in their drawers and their stocking feet.
They have handkerchiefs round their heads, they are footsore
     and chafed,
Their faces are sweaty leather.
                                           And when they pass
The little towns where the people wish them godspeed,
A few are touched by the cheers and the crying women
But most have seen a number of crying women,
And heard a number of cheers.

That battle of the first day was a minor battle
As such are counted.
                                 That is, it killed many men.
Killed more than died at Bull Run, left thousands stricken
With wounds that time might heal for a little while
Or never heal till the breath was out of the flesh.
The First Corps lost half its number in killed and wounded.
The pale-faced women, huddled behind drawn blinds
Back in the town, or in apple-cellars, hiding,
Thought it the end of the world, no doubt.
                                                        And yet,
As the books remark, it was only a minor battle.
There were only two corps engaged on the Union side,
Longstreet had not yet come up, nor Ewell's whole force,
Hill's corps lacked a division till evening fell.
It was only a minor battle.
                                    When the first shot
Clanged out, it was fired from a clump of Union vedettes
Holding a farm in the woods beyond the town.
The farmer was there to hear it - and then to see
The troopers scramble back on their restless horses
And go off, firing, as a grey mass came on...

 The model soldier, gallant and courteous,
 Shot from the sadlle in the first of the fight.
 He was Doubleday's friend, but Doubleday has no time
 To grieve him, the Union right being driven in
 And Heth's Confederates pressing on towards the town
 He holds the onrush back till Howard comes up
 And takes command for a while.
      The fighting is grim.
 Meade has heard the news.  He sends Hancock up the field
 Hancock takes command in mid-combat.  The grey comes on.
 Five color bearers are killed at one Union color.
 The last man dying still holds up the sagging flag.
 The pale faced women creeping out of their houses,
 Plead withretreating bluecoats, "Don't leave us, boys,
 Stay with us- hold the town."  Their faces are thin,
 Their words come tumbling out of a frightened mouth.
 In a field, far off, a peaceable farmer puts
 His hands to his ears, still hearing that one sharp shot
 That he will hear and hear until he dies of it.
 It is Hill and Ewell now against Hancock and Howard
 And a confused wild clamor-and the high keen
 Of the Rebel yell- and the sharp-edged bitter bullet song
 Beating down men and grain, while the sweaty fighters
 Grunt as they ram their charges with blackened hands.

 Till Hancock and Howard are beat away at last
 Outnumbered and outflanked, clean out of town,
 Retreating as best they can to a fish hook ridge,
 And the clamor dies and the sun is going down
 And the tired men think about food.
     The dust-bitten staff
 Of Ewell, riding along through the captured streets,
 Hear the thud of a bullet wound striking their general.
 Flesh or bome?  Death-wound or rub of the game?
 'The general's hurt!"  They gasp and volley their questions
 Ewell turns his head like a bird, "No, I'm not hurt, sir,
 But suppose the ball had struck you, General Gordon,
 We'd have the trouble of carrying you from the field.
 You can see how much better fixed I am.
 It doesn't hurt a mite to be shot in your wooden leg."

 So it ends.  Lee comes on the field in time to see
 The village taken, the Union wave in retreat.
 Meade will not reach the ground till one the next morning.

So it ends, this lesser battle of the first day,
Starkly disputed and piecemeal won and lost
By corps-commanders who carried no magic plans
Stowed in their sleeves, but fought and held as they could.
It is past.  The board is staked for the greater game
Which is to follow - The beaten Union brigades
Recoil from the cross-roads town that they tried to hold.
And so recoiling, rest on a destined ground.
Who chose that ground?
                                  There are claimants enough in the books.
Howard thanked by Congress for choosing it
And doubtless, they would have thanked him as well had he
Chosen another, once the battle was won,
And there are a dozen ifs on the Southern side,
How, in that first day's evening, if one had known,
If Lee had been there in time, if Jackson had lived,
The heights that cost so much blood in the vain attempt
to take days later, could have been taken then.
And the ifs and the thanks and rst are all true enough
But we can only say, when we look at the board,
"There it happened.  There is the way of the land.
There was the fate, and there the blind swords were crossed."

You took a carriage to that battlefield
Now, I suppose, you take a motor-bus
But, then, it was a carriage and you ate
Fried chicken out of wrappings and waxed paper,
While the slow guide buzzed on about the war
And the enormous, curdled summer clouds
Piled up like giant cream puffs in the blue.
The carriage smelt of axle-grease and leather
And the old horse nodded a sleepy head
Adorned with a straw hat.  His ears stuck through it.
It was the middle of hay-fever summer
And it was hot.  And you could stand and look
All the way down from Cemetery Ridge,
Much as it was, except for the monuments
And startling groups of monumental men
Bursting in bronze and marble from the ground,
And all the curious names and gravestones.

So peaceable it was, so calm and hot,
So tidy and great-skied
    No men had fought
There but enormous monumental men
Who bled neat streams of uncorrupting bronze,
Even at the Round Tops, even by Pickett's boulder
Where the bronze, open book could still be read
By the visitors and sparrows and the wind:
And the wind came, the wind moved the grass,
Saying...while the long light... and all so calm...

 "Pickett came
 And the South came
 And the end comes,
 And the grass comes
 And the wind blows
 On the bronze book
 On the bronze men
 On the grown grass,
 And the wind says
 'Long ago

    Then it was time to buy a paperweight
    With flags upon it in decalcomania
    And hope you wouldn't break it driving home 


 Draw a clumsy fish-hook on a piece of paper,
to the left of the shank, by the bend of the curving hook,
Draw a Maltese cross with the top block cut away.
The cross is the town. nine roads star out of it
East, West, South, North.
                         And now, still more to the left
Off the lopped-off cross, on the other side of the town,
Draw a long, slightly-wavy line of ridges and hills
Roughly parallel to the fish-hook shank.
(The hook of the fish-hook is turned away from the cross
And the wavy line.)
                   There your ground and your ridges lie
The fish-hook is Cemetery Ridge and the North
Waiting to be assaulted-the wavy line
Seminary Ridge whence the Southern assault will come.

The valley between is more than a mile in breadth.
It is some three miles from the lowest jut of the cross
To the button at the far end of the fish-hook shank,
Big Round Top, with Little Round Top not far away,
Both ridges are strong and rocky, well made for war.
But the Northern one is the stronger, shorter one.
Lee's army must spread out like an uncoiled snake
Lying along a fence-rail, while Meade's can coil
Or halfway coil, like a snake clinging to a stone.
Meade has the more men and the easier shifts to make,
Lee the old prestige of triumph and his tried skill.
His task is-to coil his snake round the other snake
Halfway clung to the stone, and shatter it so,
Or to break some point in the shank of the fish-hook line
And so cut the snake in two.
                           Meade's task is to hold.

That is the chess and the scheme of the wooden blocks
Set down on the contour map.
                                        Having learned so much,
Forget it now, while the ripple-lines of the map
Arise into bouldered ridges, tree-grown, bird-visited,
Where the gnats buzz, and the wren builds a hollow nest
And the rocks are grey in the sun and black in the rain,
And the jacks-in-the-pulpit grow in the cool, damp hollows.
See no names of leaders painted upon the blocks
Such as "Hill," or "Hancock," or "Pender" -
                                                              but see instead
Three miles of living men - three long double miles
Of men and guns and horses and fires and wagons,
Teamsters, surgeons, generals, orderlies,
A hundred and sixty thousand living men
Asleep or eating or thinking or writing brief
Notes in the thought of death, shooting dice or swearing,
Groaning in hospital wagons, standing guard
While the slow stars walk through heaven in silver mail,
Hearing a stream or a joke or a horse cropping grass
Or hearing nothing, being too tired to hear.
All night till the round sun comes and the morning breaks,
Three double miles of live men.
Listen to them, their breath goes up through the night
In a great chord of life, in the sighing murmur
Of wind-stirred wheat.
                                A hundred and sixty thousand
Breathing men, at night, on two hostile ridges set down.

 Jack Ellyat slept that night on the rocky ground
 Of Cemetery Hill while the cold stars marched
 And if his bed was harder than Jacob's stone
 Yet he could sleep on it now and be glad for sleep

 He had been through Chancellorsville and the whistling wood
 He had been through this last day.  It is well to sleep
 After such days
    He had seen, in the last four months,
 Many roads, much weather and death, and two men fey
 Before they died with the presence of death to come,
 John Hrberdeen and the corporal from Millerstown.
 Such things are often remembered, even in sleep.
 He thought to himself as he lay on the ground,
 "We got it hot today in that brick red town
 But will get it hotter tomorrow."
    And when he awoke
 And saw the round sun risen in the clear sky,
 He could feel that steam up from the rocky ground
 And touch each man.
    One man looked down from the hill,
 "That must be their whole damn army," he said and whistled,
 "It'll be a picnic today boys.  Yes, it'll be
 A regular basket-picnic."  He whistled again.

 "Shut your traps about picnics, Ace," said another man,
 "You make me too damn hungry!"
     He sighed out loud.
 "We had enough of a picnic at Chancellorsville,"
 He said, " I ain't felt right in my stummick since.
 Can you make 'em out?"
   "Sure," said Ace, "but they're pretty far."

 "Wonder who we'll get? That bunch we got yesterday
 was a mean shootin' bunch."
    "Now don't you worry," said Ace,
 We'll get plenty,"

A thin voice asid abruptly, "They're moving - lookit -
They're moving.  I tell you - lookit -"
                                                   They all looked then.
A little cracking noise as of burning thornsticks
Began far away - ceased wholly - began again -
"We won't get it awhile," thought Ellyat.  "They're trying the
We won't get it awhile, but we'll get it soon.
I feel funny today.  I don't think I'm going to be killed
But I feel funny.  That's their whole army all right.
I wonder if those other two felt like this,
John Haberdeen and the corporal from Millerstown?
What's it like to see your name on a bullet?
It must feel queer.  This is going to be a big one.
The Johnnies know it.  That house looks pretty down there.
Phaeton, charioteer in your drunken car,
What have you got for a man that carries my name?
We're a damn good company now, if we say it ourselves
And the Old Man knows it - but this one's bound to be tough.
I wonder what they're feeling like over there.

Charioteer, you were driving yesterday,
No doubt, but I did not see you.  I see you now.
What have you got today for a man with my name?"

The firing began that morning at nine o'clock,
But it was three before the attacks were launched.
There were two attacks, one a drive on the Union left
To take the round tops, the other one on the right.
Lee had planned them to strike together and, striking so,
cut the Union snake in three pieces.
                                   It did not happen.
On the left, Dutch Longstreet, slow, pugnacious and stubborn,
Hard to beat and justas hard to convince,
Had his own ideas of the battle and does not move
For hours after the hour that Lee had planned,
Though when he does, he moves with pugnacious strength.
Facing him in the valley before the Round Tops,
Sickles thrusts out blue troops in a weak right angle,
Some distance from the Ridge, by the Emmitsburg pike.
There is a peach orchard there, a field of ripe wheat
And other peaceable things soon not to be peaceful.

They say the bluecoats, marching through the ripe wheat,
Made a blue-and-yellow picture that men remember
Even now in their age, in their crack-voiced age.
They sat the noise was incessant as the sound
Of all wolves howling, when the attack came on.
They say, when the guns all spoke, that the solid ground
Of the rocky ridges trembled like a sick child.
We have made the sick earth tremble with other shakings
In our time, in our time, in our time, but it has not taught us
To leave the grain in the field.

                                        So the storm came on
Yelling against the angle.
                                  The men who fought there
Were the tried fighters, the hammered, the weather-beaten,
The very hard-dying men.
                                They came and died
And came again and died and stood there and died,
Till the angle was crumpled and broken in,
Sickles shot down, Willard, Barlow and Semmes shot down,
Wheatfield and orchard bloody and trampled and taken,
And Hood's tall Texans sweeping on toward the Round Tops
As Hood fell wounded...

                                                 When that last attack

Came, with its cry, Jack Ellyat saw it come on.

They had been waiting for hours on that hard hill,
Sometimes under fire, sometimes untroubled by shells.
A man chewed a stick of grass and hummed to himself.
Another played mumbledeypeg with a worn black knife.
Two men were talking girls till they got too mad
And a sergeant stopped them.
                                             Then they waited again.
Jack Ellyat waited, hearing that other roar
Rise and fall, be distant and then approach.
Now and then he turned on his side and looked at the sky
As if to build a house of peace from that blue,
But could find no house of peace there.
                                                      Only the roar,
The slow sun sinking, the fey touch at his mind....

He was lying behind a tree and a chunk of rock
On thick, coarse grass.  Farther down the slope of the hill
There were houses, a rough stone wall, and blue loungy men.
Behind them lay the batteries on the crest.

He wondered if there were people still in the houses.
One house had a long, slant roof.  He followed the slant
Of the roof with his finger, idly, pleased with the line.

The shelling burst out from the Southern guns again.
Their own batteries answered behind them.  He looked at his
While the shells came down.  I'd like to live in that house.
Now the shelling lessened.
                                       The man with the old black knife
Shut up the knife and began to baby his rifle.
They're coming, Jack thought.  This is it.
                                                          There was an abrupt
Slight stiffening in the bodies of the other men,
A few chopped ends of words scattered back and forth,
Eyes looking, hands busy in swift, well-accustomed gestures.
This is it.  He felt his own hands moving like their's
Though he was not telling them to.  This is it.  He felt
The old familiar tightness around his chest.
The man with the grass chewed his stalk a little too hard
And then suddenly spat it out.
                                           Jack Ellyat saw
Through the falling night, that slight, grey fringe that was war
Coming against them, not as it came in pictures
With a ruler-edge, but a crinkled and smudgy line
Like a childs vague scwarl in soft crayon, but moving on
But with its little red handkerchiefs of flags
Sagging up and down, here and there.
                                                  It was still quite far,
It was still a toy attack - it was swallowed now
By a wood and came out larger with larger flags.
Their own guns on the crest were trying to break it up
 - Smoking sand thrown into an ant-legged line -
But it still kept on - one fringe and another fringe
And another and -
                          He lost them all for a moment
In a dip of ground.
                      This is it, he thought with a parched
Mind.  It's a big one.  They must be yelling all right
Though you can't hear them.  They're going to do it this time.
Do it or bust - you can tell from the way they come -
I hope to Christ that the batteries do their job
When they get out of that dip.
                                          Hell, they've lost 'em now,
And they're still coming.
                                He heard a thin gnat-shrieking
"Hold your fire till they're close enough, men!"
                                                             The new
The new lieutenant looked thin.  "Aw, go home," he muttered,
"We're no militia - What do you think we are?'

Then suddenly, down by his house, the low stone wall
Flashed and was instantly huge with a wall of smoke.
He was yelling now.  He saw a red battleflag
Push through the smoke like a prow and be blotted out
By smoke and flash.
                             His heart knocked hard in his chest.
"Do it or bust," he mumbled, holding his fire
While the rags of smoke blew off.
                                                  He heard a thick chunk
Beside him, turned his head for a flicker of time.
The man who had chewed on the grass was injuredly trying
to rise to his knees, his face annoyed by a smile.
Then the blood poured over the smile and he crumpled up.
Ellyat reached out a hand to touch him and felt the hand
Rasped by a file.
                       He jerked back the hand and sucked it.
"Bastards," he said in a minor and even voice.

All this occurred, it seemed, in no time at all,
But when he turned back, the smoky slope of the hill
Was grey - and a staggering red advancing flag
And those same shouting strangers he knew so well,
No longer ants - but there - and stumblingly running -
And that high, shrill, hated keen piercing all the flat thunder.

His lips went back.  He felt something swell in his chest
Like a huge, indocile bubble.
                                         "By God," he said,
Loading and firing, "You're not going to get this hill,
You're not going to get this hill.  By God, but you're not!"

He saw one man spin like a crazy dancer
And another fall at his heels - but the hill kept growing them.
Something made him look to his left.
                                                       A yellow-fanged face
Was aiming a picture over a chunk of rock.
He fired and the face went down like a broken pipe
While something hit him sharply and took his breath.
"Get back, you suckers," he croaked, "Get back there, you
He wouldn't have time to load now - they were too near.
He was up and screaming.  He swung his gun like a club
Through a twlight full of bright stabbings, and felt it crash
On a thing that broke.  He had no breath any more.
He had no thoughts.  Then the blunt fist hit him again.

He was down in the grass and the black sheep of night ran over

On the crest of the hill, the sweaty cannoneers,
The blackened Pennsylvanians, picked up their rammers
And fought the charge with handspikes and clubs and stones,
Biting and howling. It is said that they cried
Wildly, "Death on the soil of our native state
Rather than lose our guns." A general says so.
He was not there. I do not know what they cried
But that they fought, there was witness-and that the grey
Wave that came on them fought, there was witness too.
For an instant that wheel of combat-and for an instant
A brief, hard-breathing hush.
                             Then came the hard sound
Of a column tramping-blue reinforcements at last,
A doomsday sound to the grey.
                            The hard column came
Over the battered crest and went with a yell.
The grey charge bent and gave ground, the grey charge was
The sweaty gunners fell to their guns again
And began to scatter shells in the ebbing wave.

Thus ended the second day of the locked bull-horns
And the wounding or slaying of the twenty thousand.
And thus night came to cover it.
                                So the field
Was alive all night with whispers and words and sighs,
So the slow blood dripped in the rocks of the Devil's Den.
Lincoln, back in his White House, asks for news.
The War Department has little. There are reports
Of heavy firing near Gettysburg-that is all.
Davis in Richmond, knows as little as he.
In hollow vicksburg, the shells come down and come down
And the end is but two days off.
                               On the field itself
Meade calls a council and considers retreat.
His left has held and the Round Tops still are his.
But his right has been shaken, his centre pierced for a time,
The enemy holds part of his works on Culp's Hill,
His losses have been most stark.
                               He thinks of these things
And decides at last to fight it out where he stands.   ...


Wingate cursed with an equal stress
The guns in the sky and his weariness,
The nightmare riding of yesterday
When they slept in the saddle by whole platoons
And the Pennsylvania farmer's grey
With hocks as puffy as toy balloons,
a graceless horse, without gaits or speed,
But all he had for his time of need.
"I'd as soon be riding a jersey cow."
But the Black Horse Troop was piebald now
And the Black Horse Troop was worn to the blade
With the dull fatigue of this last, long raid.
Huger Shepley rode in a tense
Gloom of spirit that found offense
In all things under the summer skies
And the recklessness in Bristol's eyes
Had lost its color of merriment.
Horses and men, they were well-nigh spent.
Wingate grinned as he heard the "Mount,"
"Reckon we look sort of no-account,
But we're here at last for somebody's fight."
They rode toward the curve of the Union right.

At one o'clock the first signal-gun was fired
And the solid earth began to be sick anew.
For two hours then that sickness, the unhushed roar
Of two hundred and fifty cannon firing like one.

By Philadelphia, eighty-odd miles away,
An old man stooped and put his ear to the ground
And heard that roar, it is said, like the vague sea-clash
In a hollow conch-shell, there, in his flowerbeds.
He had planted trumpet-flowers for fifteen years
But now the flowers were blowing an iron noise
Through the earth itself.  He wiped his face on his sleeve
And tottered back to his house with fear in his eyes.

The caissons began to blow up in the Union batteries....

The cannonade fell still.  All along the fish-hook line,
The tired men stared at the smoke and waited for it to clear;
The men in the center waited, their rifles gripped in their hands,
By the trees of the riding fate, and the low stone wall, and the

These were Hancock's men, the men of the Second Corps,
Eleven states were mixed there, where Minnesota stood
In battle-order with Maine, and Rhode Island beside New York,
The metals of all the North, cooled into an axe of war.

The strong sticks of the North, bound into a fasces-shape,
The hard winters of snow, the wind with the cutting edge,
And against them came that summer that does not die with the
Magnolia and honeysuckle and the blue Virginia flag.

Tall Pickett went up to Longstreet-his handsome face was
George Pickett, old friend of Lincoln's in days gone by with the
When he was a courteous youth and Lincoln the strange shawled
Who would talk in a Springfield street with a boy who dreampt of
  a sword.

Dreamt of a martial sword, as swords are martial in dreams,
And the courtesy to use it, in the old bright way of the tales.
Those days are gone with the blast. He has his sword in his hand.
And he will use it today, and remember that using long.

He came to Longstreet for orders, but Longstreet would not
He saw Old Peter's mouth and the thoughts in Old Peter's mind.
He knew the task that was set and the men that he had to lead
And a pride came into his face while Longstreet stood there

"I shall go forward, sir," he said and turned to his men.
The commands went down the line. The grey ranks started to
Slowly at first, then faster, in order, stepping like deer,
The Virginians, the fifteen thousand, the seventh wave of the

There was a death-torn mile of broken ground to cross,
And a low stone wall at the end, and behind it the Second Corps,
And behind that force another, fresh men who had not yet
They started to cross that ground. The guns began to tear them.

>From the hill they say that it seemed more like a sea than a wave,
A sea continually torn by stones flung out of the sky,
And yet as it came, still closing, closing and rolling on
As the moving sea closes over the flaws and rips of the tide.

You could mark the path that they took by the dead that they
  left behind,
Spilled from that deadly march as a cart spills meal on a road,
And yet they came on unceasing, the fifteen thousand no more,
And the blue Virginia flag did not fall, did not fall, did not fall.

They halted but once to fire as they came. Then the smoke closed
And you could not see them, and then, as it cleared again for a
They were coming still but divided, gnawed at by blue attacks,
One flank half-severed and halted, but the centre still like a tide.

Cushing ran down the last of his guns to the battle-line.
The rest had been smashed to scrap by Lee's artillery fire.
He held his guts in his hand as the charge came up the wall
And his gun spoke out for him once before he fell to the ground.

Armistead Leapt the wall and laid his hand on the gun,
The last of the three brigadiers who ordered Pickett's brigades,
He waived his hat on his sword and "Give 'em the steel!" he cried,
A few men followed him over. The rest were beaten or dead.

A few men followed him over. There had been fifteen thousand
When that sea began its march toward the fish-hook ridge and
   the wall.
So they came on in strength, light-footed stepping like deer,
So they died or were taken. So the iron entered their flesh.

Lee, a mile away, in the shade of a little wood,
Stared, with his mouth shut down, and saw them go and be slain
And then saw for a single moment, the blue Virginia flag
Planted beyond the wall, by that other flag he knew.

The two flags planted together, one instant, like hostile flowers.
Then the smoke wrapped both in a mantle-and when it had
  blown away,
Armistead lay in his blood, and the rest were dead or down,
And the valley grey with the fallen and the wreck of the broken

Pickett gazed around him, the boy who had dreamt of a sword
And talked with a man named Lincoln. The sword was still in
  his hand.
He had gone out with fifteen thousand. He came back to his lines
  with five.
He fought well till the war was over, but a thing was cracked in his

Then the word came and the bugle sang
And he was part of the running clang,
The rush and the shock and the sabres licking
And the fallen horses screaming and kicking.
His grey was tired and his arm unsteady
And he whirled like a leaf in a shreiking eddy
Where every man was fighting his neighbor
And there ws no room for tricks of the sabre
But only a wild and nightmare sickling.
His head felt burnt - there was something trickling
Into his eyes - then the new charge broke
The eddy apart like scattered smoke;
The cut on his head half made him blind.
If he had a mind, he had lost that mind.

He came to himself in a battered place,
Staring at Wainscott Bristol's face,
The dried blood made it a ferret's mask.

"What happened?'  he croaked.
                                             "Well, you can ask,"
Said Bristol, drawling, "But don't ask me,
For any facts of the jamboree.
I reckon we've been to an Irish wake
Or maybe cuttin' a johnny-cake
With most of the Union cavalry-corps.
I don't know yet, but it was a war.
Are you crazy still?  You were for a piece.
You yelled you were destiny's long-lost niece
And you wanted to charge the whole Yank line
Because they'd stolen your valentine.
You fought like a fool but you talked right wild.
You got a bad bump, too."
                                       ngate smiled
"I reckon I did, but I don't know when.
Did we win or what?"
                               "And I say again,"
Said Bristol, heavily, "don't ask me.
Inquire of General Robert Lee.
I know we're in for a long night ride
And they say we got whipped on the other side.
What's left of the Troop are down by the road.

We lost John Leicester and Harry Spode
And the Lawley boys and Ballantyne.
The Major's all right - but there's Jim Devine
And Francis Carroll and Judson White -
I wish I had some liquor tonight."

Wingate touched the cut on his head.
It burned but it no longer bled.
"I wish I could sleep ten years," he said.

Army of Northern Virginia, haggard and tattered,
Tramping back on the pikes, through the dust-white summer,
With your wounds still fresh, your burden of prisoners,
Your burden of sick and wounded,
"One long groan of human anguish six miles long."
You reach the swollen Potomac at long last,
A foe behind, a risen river in front,
And fording that swollen river, in the dim starlight,
In the yellow and early dawn,
Still have heart enough for the tall, long striding soldiers
To mock the short, half swept away by the stream.
"Better change our name to Lees Waders, boys!"
"Come on you shorty-get a ride on my back."
"Aw, its just we ain't had a bath in seven years
And General Lee, he knows we need a good bath."

So you splash and slip through the water and come at last
Safe, to the Southern side, while Meade does not strike;
Safe to the other roads, safe to march upon roads you know
For two long years. And yet-each road that you take,
Each dusty road leads to Appomattox now.